Traumatic brain injuries leave women prone to mental health problems

April 3, 2017, The Endocrine Society

Traumatic brain injuries affect the body's stress axis differently in female and male mice, according to research presented at the Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting, ENDO 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The results could help explain why women who experience blast injuries face a greater risk of developing mental health problems than men.

About 1.5 million people are diagnosed with (TBI) each year. Blast injuries are particularly common in the military population. Between 15 percent and 30 percent of soldiers who experience a TBI are later diagnosed with neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Even though men are more likely to experience a TBI, women have an elevated risk of developing mental health disorders due to the .

The study examined how disrupt the stress axis, specifically the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a signaling pathway involved in the body's stress response. The hormones produced by the glands in the stress axis affect parts of the brain involved in regulating fear and anxiety.

"The study suggests that mild traumatic brain injuries dysregulate the neuroendocrine stress axis differently in women and men," said Ashley Russell, the first author and a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Md. "The research provides a missing link between a mild blast injury and the subsequent development of neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and PTSD."

Researchers exposed both male and to a mild blast injury of 15 psi using the ORA Advanced Blast Simulator at USU. When compared to mice that did not receive blast injury, injured mice produced altered levels of corticosterone, a hormone released when the stress axis is activated. This difference in the stress response was observed both short- and long-term post blast injury. Blast-injured female mice showed greater dysregulation of corticosterone levels than male mice with TBI.

The scientists also sought to examine how a stressor may alter activation of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) neurons in various brain regions involved in fear and anxiety regulation. In response to a stressor, female mice had heightened activation of CRF neurons in the stress integration center of the brain compared to male mice, an effect attributed to circulating estrogen levels.

Understanding precisely how TBI can interfere with the body's may open the door to developing better interventions to treat both TBI and the resulting conditions, Russell said.

"Traumatic brain injury causes short- and long-term neuroendocrine dysregulation that may result in anxiety- and stress-related disorders," she said. "Unfortunately, there are no therapeutic interventions to mitigate this response. More research is needed in this area to determine why these effects occur and how to treat them."

Explore further: Study finds natural chemical helps brain adapt to stress

Related Stories

Study finds natural chemical helps brain adapt to stress

March 29, 2017
A natural signaling molecule that activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain plays a critical role in stress-resilience—the ability to adapt to repeated and acute exposures to traumatic stress, according to researchers ...

Veterans with blast traumatic brain injury may have unrecognized pituitary dysfunction

June 23, 2014
In soldiers who survive traumatic brain injury from blast exposure, pituitary dysfunction after their blast injury may be an important, under-recognized, and potentially treatable source of their symptoms, a new study finds. ...

Potential target identified for preventing long-term effects of traumatic brain injury

October 31, 2016
More than 200,000 U.S. soldiers serving in the Middle East have experienced a blast-related traumatic brain injury, making it a common health problem and concern for that population.

Pituitary insufficiency is prevalent after blast concussion in military veterans

April 4, 2016
A study in military veterans finds that explosive blast-related concussions frequently result in hormone changes leading to problems such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression and poor quality of life. The research, ...

Mild blast injury causes molecular changes in brain akin to Alzheimer, team says

April 24, 2013
A multicenter study led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows that mild traumatic brain injury after blast exposure produces inflammation, oxidative stress and gene activation patterns akin ...

In military personnel, no difference between blast and nonblast-related concussions

June 16, 2014
Explosions are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A new study shows that military personnel with mild brain trauma related to such blasts had outcomes similar ...

Recommended for you

Brainwaves show how exercising to music bends your mind

February 18, 2018
Headphones are a standard sight in gyms and we've long known research shows listening to tunes can be a game-changer for your run or workout.

To sleep, perchance to forget

February 17, 2018
The debate in sleep science has gone on for a generation. People and other animals sicken and die if they are deprived of sleep, but why is sleep so essential?

Lab-grown human cerebellar cells yield clues to autism

February 16, 2018
Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain's cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital used stem cell technology ...

Fragile X syndrome neurons can be restored, study shows

February 16, 2018
Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting one out of every 3,600 boys born. The syndrome can also cause autistic traits, such as social and communication deficits, as well ...

Brain-machine interface study suggests how brains prepare for action

February 16, 2018
Somewhere right now in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an Olympic skier is thinking through the twists and spins she'll make in the aerial competition, a speed skater is visualizing how he'll sneak past a competitor on the inside ...

Humans blink strategically in response to environmental demands

February 16, 2018
If a brief event in our surroundings is about to happen, it is probably better not to blink during that moment. A team of researchers at the Centre for Cognitive Science from Technische Universität Darmstadt published a ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.